Achterman to Head Transportation Commission

I’ll have a more detailed reflection on yesterday’s Oregon Business Plan Summit later, after I’ve digested all the documents.

But one nice piece of news is that the Governor announced that he was appointing Gail Achterman as chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission. Achterman has been the most progressive voice on the Commission for some time, regularly talking about Climate Change and the need to prioritize maintenance.

It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a step in the right direction!

16 responses to “Achterman to Head Transportation Commission”

  1. Chris,
    looking forward to your analysis. From the press reports today it looks like the start of a business led campaign for the “same old, same old,” more money for roads; ironically in the same breath as “sustainability.”
    If by transportation we mean more passenger rail between Eugene and points north, more state resources for transit upgrades in the metro area (MAX & Streetcar), fixes to the gaps in freight rail…Coos Bay and Swan Island among others…, and a doubling of the 1% for bike/ped to 2%, then I’m on board.
    But after my experience with ODOT’s Delta/Lombard project where freight and economy are invoked when its really just another commuter capacity project, I am very skeptical of public and private advocates for more transportation dollars.

  2. Lenny-

    I second your comments, except that I would add that I’d really like to see passenger rail re-started between Portland and the Rogue Valley (stops in Grants Pass, Ashland & Medford, at least 4 trains a day service level, also serving Roseburg en route).

    It’s economic development as much as it is sustainability, sure, but it’s also something that’s long-overdue. The tracks are there, but they need some work to get back up to the right level of service.

  3. Absolutely, passenger rail service parallel to I-5 all the way to Ashland…to make room for all those trucks. If I see some innovation that expands transportation options for residents, I’m on board. But don’t give us that old “freight drives the ecconomy” rant; education drives the economy. How many shoes do adidas and Nike export from around here?

  4. I would really like them to devote more time and energy to passenger rail throughout Oregon, especially the Willamette Valley. Oregon’s population is going to double in the next 20 years and cities around Portland will soon be larger than Portland. I envision Vancouver, Beaverton and Salem all continuing to grow at a faster clip than Portland until Portland is no longer #1 in population. I really hope they bring commuter rail to Salem and improve Amtrak along the Eugene to B.C. corridor substantially.

  5. I think it is important to distinguish between urban transportation needs and the transportation needs of small towns and rural areas. Those communities are often very auto-dependent with few real alternatives. If they have rail service, that can help meet some of the freight needs. But many don’t.

    Reducing reliance on the automobile in those communities often means transforming what is now a highway that is a scar through the middle of a community into a main street that better serves local residents rather than just people passing through.

    But we also ought to realize that there are bridges that are vital links to rural communities that are failing and have load restrictions. The result is increased costs for local businesses and residents and increased number of vehicles to hande the same amount of goods.

    I guess all I am saying is not every freight project in the state is just a cover for increased commuter capacity. Even if that is largely what happens in the Portland region.

  6. Reducing reliance on the automobile in those communities often means transforming what is now a highway that is a scar through the middle of a community

    Or in the case of Dundee, a scar of a community on the highway. In their case, they need to just bulldoze half of the town and widen the road into a nice tree-lined boulevard, wide sidewalks and ample parking spaces. I really don’t think Lumpy’s Tavern and a nut processing plant necessitate holding everyone hostage in traffic gridlock as they go to the coast. As it is today, nobody even makes a pit stop in this blighted town because there is nowhere worth stopping and traffic is horrible, especially on the weekends.

  7. Dundee is the capital of the wine country…better leave it alone and find another way to travel.
    Yes, Ross, there are bridges that need attention and other maintenance needs, but I keep smelling a rat when I hear this.
    I’d like someone I can trust (1000 Friends?) to run the numbers…state gas tax, federal gas tax, etc. on the income side to ODOT, and basic maintenance, bridge updates and other essentials on the expense side…to see how big the gap really is. ODOT probably has a ton of overhead.
    The Delta/Lombard fraud has me discounting anything and everything ODOT has to say…wolf guarding the henhouse.

  8. I am starting to think all these gargantuan projects are fraudulent. Why, for instance, do they need to keep wasting money on studies and yet do nothing to implement them? The same is going on with Dundee bypass and the Salem River Crossing! The Salem I305 Project was proposed back in the 1970s during the same era as the backlash against the Mt. Hood Freeway. Now everyone here in Salem is aghast at how expensive a new, almost identical project is going to cost. I think Mt. Hood Freeway in Portland and I305 in Salem should have been built back in 1970s and a lot of the stupid congestion problems today wouldn’t be here.

  9. As for the coast traffic problem, maybe they should build a giant airport in Lincoln City so people can fly from Portland or Salem to the coast?

  10. Mt Hood Freeway was one of the biggest frauds of all time, which thankfully was not built…that decision saved half a dozen neighborhoods.

  11. Anybody know when they stopped running trains from Portland to Medford/Ashland? I think it would great but four trains daily? Portland’s lucky to get four trains daily it gets now(not counting those thruway buses). Somebody will have to kick in the money. Who owns the rails to Medford, UP? Has there been a feasibility study done on a Medford route?

  12. Stan,

    Believe it was in the 1950s when the last trains ran over the Siskiyou Branch. In the 1960s the only passenger trains on the SP lines in Oregon was on the Cascade Line/Valley Line, the same line used by Amtrak’s Coast Starlight today between Portland and Klamath Falls, to points south into Califronia.

    I get a good laugh each time someone suggests reopening passenger service south of Eugene. There isn’t the traffic demand, and the rail infrastructure is not at all sufficient for passenger service – EVEN IF the line were rehabbed with new 136 pound rail, CTC signalling, etc. There are too many stretches of rail in narrow canyons or on mountainsides, with sharp curves, with permanent speed restrictions of 20-30 MPH. There’s a reason the Southern Pacific built the “Natron Cutoff” in the 1930s – because the Siskiyou Line was TOO slow. And there’s a reason the Southern Pacific leased out the line in 1993 – it didn’t need it. (And Union Pacific has sold parts of the line to RailAmerica, because UP doesn’t think they’ll ever need to operate a train there ever again.)

    Has feasibility studies been done? Yeah, look on ODOT’s web site for the 1993 and 1997 Rail Plans. A new one is supposed to come out soon.

    As for the number of trains in/out of Portland:

    Three to/from points south into Portland (two Cascades trains from Eugene and the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles)

    Five to/from Seattle (four Cascades trains, two from Eugene, one Coast Starlight from Los Angeles)

    One to/from points east (Empire Builder, via Spokane, Montana, North Dakota, and Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago).

  13. I really think its a shame more people don’t ride on Amtrak between Eugene and points north. As far as points south, I would eliminate those routes and tell people to fly instead. Not enough people to sustain that service. Riding from Salem to Portland is a great value – I buy a 10 ride ticket for $58 and I think that even saves me in just the cost of gas, not to mention the not having to hassle with parking my pickup in a parkade in Portland. I really think they should market the Amtrak as a good way to get around in the Eugene-Seattle megalopolis. I would even support having more frequent runs (maybe every half hour) between 5AM to 8PM so people could live in Salem and commute to their jobs in downtown Portland and vice-versa.

  14. the Eugene-Seattle megalopolis.

    These are certainly economically and socially connected areas, but doesn’t “megalopolis” imply a nearly continuous urbanized area? There are large rural gaps between many of the communities between Eugene and Seattle. I really think you’d really appeal to a wider audience if you’d ease off on the exaggerations and hyperbole.

    From the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy:

    A vast stretch of developed industrial urban area, such as the East Coast of the United States from Boston to Washington, D.C., or the Ruhr Valley in Germany. Megalopolis is from Greek words meaning “great city.”

    So what do you call a fully urbanized area like parts of the NE, if you’re already calling Eugene-Seattle a “megalopolis”? A “supermegalopolis”?

    – Bob R.

  15. Hey, Bob, I’m looking toward the future when the entire west coast will be one giant city. At least I’m not referring to the Tijuana-Vancouver megacorridor!

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